ZOA Wrote to Pres. Obama, A-G Holder & Others
NEW YORK, May 9, 2012 — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) criticized the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) today for adopting a resolution at its annual plenum on Sunday, which addresses anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity on college campuses. Rather than fully embracing the October 2010 policy of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which now protects Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the JCPA resolution is critical of the policy, sending the wrong message to Jewish students, to the federal government, and to the perpetrators of anti-Semitic bigotry.
· It is most ironic that the JCPA, which says in its resolution that the JCPA is committed to “fostering support for Israel and promoting Jewish security,” is expressing concern that the new Title VI policy could be used to squelch speech that, in fact, promotes hatred and violence against Jews and Israel – that it could intimidate haters of Jews and Israel from calling Israel a Nazi or apartheid state and calling Israelis baby killers. Although a Title VI action could not be used to achieve such a result, if such a result did occur, we would applaud it. And the JCPA should, too. If Title VI actions put a stop to hate speech against African Americans and Hispanics on campus, we would applaud that as well, and surely the JCPA would join us.
· There is no evidence that Title VI has been or will be used to suppress free speech. Whenever the ZOA invoked Title VI on behalf of Jewish students, the ZOA never called for suppressing speech that is anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel. Rather, the ZOA urged university leaders to exercise their own free speech rights and publicly condemn speeches and programs that cross the line into anti-Semitism based on U.S. government standards.
· The JCPA resolution suggests, without any evidence, that there are some in the Jewish community who are using Title VI “aggressively” or indiscriminately. Such claims are not only false; they are also divisive. The JCPA is sending the message to OCR that perhaps it made a mistake in clarifying that Jewish students would now be protected under Title VI, because even the Jewish community is not united behind this new legal protection.
When the JCPA initially proposed a resolution critical of the new Title VI policy protecting Jewish students, the ZOA opposed it, detailing its reasons in an October 2011 letter to the JCPA board of directors. The ZOA stated that any resolution on the Title VI issue should simply (1) express deep concern about the anti-Semitism and vicious anti-Israel sentiment that is creating a hostile environment for Jewish students; (2) praise OCR’s new Title VI policy that affords Jewish students the same legal protections as other ethnic and racial groups; (3) support a nationwide campaign to educate Jewish students about how to respond to anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on their campuses, which should include apprising them of their legal rights under Title VI; and (4) urge Congress to enact legislation that enshrines in the law that federally funded schools must protect students from religious harassment and intimidation – in the same way they are already obligated to protect against discrimination based on “race, color, or national origin” under Title VI – so that Jewish students’ legal rights are firmly in place and not subject to agency interpretation.
The ZOA is pleased to see that the JCPA incorporated into its resolution the ZOA’s proposal that legislation should be enacted to enshrine in the law that schools must protect students against religious harassment and intimidation.
Morton A. Klein, ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, criticized the JCPA resolution for wrongly diminishing a critical new legal protection for Jewish students: “After the ZOA fought a successful six-year battle to ensure that Jewish students have the same legal protection from harassment and discrimination under Title VI that other minority groups have had since 1964, the ZOA is shocked that the JCPA would undermine what we and others have worked so hard to achieve. We are shocked at the JCPA’s efforts to arbitrarily limit Jewish high school and college students utilizing Title VI. We are shocked that the JCPA is worrying about Title VI quashing hateful speech against Jews and Israel. Regardless, the ZOA will continue to strongly advocate for Jewish students, and to make sure that they have the kind of educational environment that every student deserves – one that is physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.”